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Invitrogen, Wave Biotech, Thermo, SwissAnalytic Group, Caliper, NovaScreen, Xenogen, ABI, BG Medicine, Digene, Third Wave, Beckman, PerkinElmer, Euroscreen, Evotec Tech, Cepheid, Idaho Technology, BioMerieux, OGT, Agilent, ServiceXS, Bio-Rad, AMEX, Sequen

Invitrogen to Make Sales Force Changes
Invitrogen, hoping to reverse a $130-million third-quarter loss, will make changes to its sales force leadership and restructure its commission policy, CEO Greg Lucier said last week at the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco.
Lucier said Invitrogen will also consolidate its antibody manufacturing process, putting more focus on productivity.
The company is continuing to review the effectiveness of its sales force, and ways to expand its gross margin, he told investors.
Lucier’s comments came only a couple of months after he said the firm needs to adjust its “go-to-market approach in certain markets” to boost its sales growth — and that it plans to take some lessons from its European sales efforts, which have led to consistent revenue growth (see BioCommerce Week 11/1/2006).
Notably absent from Lucier’s remarks was talk of planned acquisitions, which the company typically mentions before audiences of investors and equity analysts. Lucier made no mention during the presentation of any upcoming M&A activity, suggesting that after going on a buying spree during the past few years Invitrogen may be taking a more conservative approach on potential acquisitions.
During the past 3-and-a-half years, Invitrogen has acquired 15 companies, which averages out to a little less than five buys a year, Lucier said. But eight of those acquisitions came in 2005, and difficulties integrating some of those businesses contributed to the firm’s recent revenue struggles. 
“In 2006, with any company that did as much as we’ve done in the last 3-and-a-half years, we clearly stumbled,” Lucier said. “We also did a number of integrations with all those companies that we acquired over the last few years. In 2006, the real crunch in terms of heavy lifting of closing plants, moving production lines, and consolidating them into a few of the remaining campuses took place.”

Invitrogen, Wave Biotech Partner on Disposable Bioreactors
Invitrogen will team with Wave Biotech to supply media-filled disposable bioreactors, Invitrogen said this week.
Through the agreement, Invitrogen will supply users of Wave Biotech's Wave Bioreactor with its GIBCO cell culture media products.
Invitrogen's standard and custom media products will be available in Wave’s O-series Cellbags, which may be customized for specific cell culture needs, the companies said.
The supply partnership is expected to "substantially reduce” preparation time and the risk for contamination, the companies said.

Thermo Acquires Swiss Mass Spec, LC Products Firm
Thermo Fisher Scientific this week announced that it has acquired SwissAnalytic Group, the Basel, Switzerland-based owner of Spectronex and Flux Instruments, for an undisclosed amount. 
Spectronex supplies mass spectrometry, chromatography and surface science instrumentation to clients in Switzerland, Austria, and the Czech Republic. Flux Instruments makes high-performance liquid chromatography pumps and software. 
The two companies had combined revenues of around $22 million in 2006.
Thermo CEO and president Marijn Dekkers said in a statement that Flux is "a strong complement to our expanding chromatography and life sciences mass spectrometry product lines" and that Spectronex will enable Thermo Fisher “to strengthen our footprint in Europe with direct sales channels and support."
The acquisition adds to Thermo Fisher’s purchase in December of sample prep and LC firm Cohesive Technologies. of sample prep and LC firm Cohesive Technologies.

Caliper Combines NovaScreen, Xenogen into Single Drug Discovery Service
Caliper Life Sciences last week said that it has officially combined its NovaScreen Biosciences and Xenogen Biosciences arms into a single drug-discovery service division called Caliper Discovery Alliances and Services, or CDAS.
The new service division will put Caliper in more direct competition with contract drug-discovery operations such as MDS Pharma Services, though CDAS’ portfolio of in vitro and in vivo assay services may be largely unmatched in the industry.
Specifically, CDAS offers more than 700 in vitro assay types, including receptor, enzyme, and ion channel screening and profiling, side-effect and ADME-tox panels, as well as cellular models for immunology, oncology, and other fields.
It also offers more than 85 in vivo pharmacological assays that measure more than 400 parameters for applications such as compound profiling and phenotyping, and target validation. Other in vivo services include the creation of genetically modified animal models and biophotonic imaging of animals for oncology and other therapeutic areas.
Despite the integration, Caliper has no plans to consolidate its facilities. In fact, the company is considering expanding NovaScreen’s and Xenogen’s facilities, a Caliper executive told BioCommerce Week sister publication Cell-Based Assay News last week.
Caliper, once a pure-play microfluidics-based consumables and instrumentation vendor, began to morph into a dual tool vendor-CRO in late 2005 when it acquired Hanover, Md.-based NovaScreen Biosciences for approximately $30 million.Then, in 2006, Caliper bought in vivo imaging tool vendor Xenogen Biosciences for approximately $80 million, in what at first seemed like an odd fit for Caliper.
With the formation of CDAS, Caliper’s transformation appears complete. Caliper will now compete more squarely with other large pharmaceutical CROs, although it believes that its wide range of service offerings sets it apart from such competitors.
“What makes CDAS unique is the integration of comprehensive individual assays into coordinated discovery or development programs for specific therapeutic areas,” David Manyak, executive vice president of discovery services of Caliper and head of CDAS, wrote in an e-mail to CBA News last week. “This ensures a continuum of experimentation from biochemical assays to cell-based assays to in vivo assays using a common set of reagents, relevant translatable cell sources, and corresponding in vivo models especially built on Xenogen’s imaging technology.”

ABI, BG Medicine Ink Biomarker Development Deal
Applied Biosystems and BG Medicine are partnering on a research project that will use ABI technology to develop methods for enhancing the scale of biomarker development, ABI announced this week.
Under the terms of the two-year agreement, BG medicine will integrate ABI technology within its proteomic and metabolomic research pipeline, which BG terms “systems pharmacology.”  
BG Medicine focuses on the molecular characterization of disease states and drug response and is already using ABI's mass spectrometers, software, and reagents "in an industrial setting,"
ABI said. Under the current agreement, BG plans to use the same tools to expand the scale of ABI's biomarker discovery and proteomics and metabolomics technologies.
Making these advances "more relevant and applicable on a wider scale," said Laura Lauman, president of ABI's proteomics and small molecule division, "can help transform the process of drug discovery and development.
Financial terms of the agreement were not released.

Digene Files Patent Infringement Suit Against Third Wave
Digene last week sued Third Wave Technologies for allegedly infringing “unidentified claims” of one of its patents, and Third Wave said it disagrees.
The suit, filed in the US District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin, said Third Wave’s Invader technology infringes US Patent No. 5,643,715, which covers a type of human papillomavirus.
Third Wave said the patent relates only to the HPV type 52, which it said is prevalent only in .5 percent of all HPV-positive cases in the US.  
“We took great care to create a detection method free from the limited scope of the '715 patent's claims,” Third Wave President and CEO Kevin Conroy said in a statement.
Conroy added that its Invader chemistry “operates differently from any other nucleic acid analysis and is well protected by intellectual property rights of its own.”
Third Wave sued Digene in 2005 in an effort to support its right to sell its HPV diagnostic test. That suit was settled on Jan. 13, 2006, "without the grant of any license or freedom-to-operate under the patents-in-suit and without any effect on the patents-in-suit,” according to a statement released by Digene at the time.
Under that agreement, Digene said, the companies also agreed not to sue each other for one year. That deadline expired over this past weekend.

Beckman to Close Palo Alto Plant
Beckman Coulter will shutter and relocate its plant in Palo Alto, Calif., by the end of 2008 as part of a cost-cutting strategy, the company said last week.
Beckman said it will relocate the assets from the facility to the Indianapolis area, where the company currently houses other discovery and automation products.  
The Palo Alto plant, which employs 220 staffers, develops and manufactures centrifuges for the company’s Discovery and Automation segment. It was not immediately clear whether there will be layoffs.
Pam Miller, supply chain vice president, said the move to Indianapolis will allow the company to “aggressively manage our costs” and take “a longer-term view of work force planning.”
The company said moving the facility to Indiana will lower its operational costs because of the “favorable local business environment.” Also, the location will enhance the company’s presence in the region and enable Beckman to take advantage of the state’s efforts to focus on life sciences and advanced manufacturing.

PerkinElmer Completes Acquisitions of Euroscreen Products, Evotec Tech
PerkinElmer has closed its acquisition of Euroscreen Products and Evotec Technologies, the company said last week.
PerkinElmer paid $30.5 million for Evotec, a German company that makes and sells tools for high-throughput and high-content cell and biochemical screening.
The company did not disclose the purchase price for Belgium-based Euroscreen, which provides GPCR membranes, cell lines, and an aequorin-based cellular assay to drug makers.
PerkinElmer said ongoing revenue for the combined companies in 2006 was around $25 million, and said the acquisitions should be “neutral to slightly accretive” for its 2007 earnings per share.
On Jan. 2 PerkinElmer said it bought the thermal-analysis product line from the British company Triton Technologies.

Cepheid Settles Patent-Infringement Suit with Idaho Technology;
Inks Sepsis Test Collaboration with BioMerieux
Cepheid has paid Idaho Technology $3.5 million and penned a cross-licensing agreement to settle a patent-infringement suit, Cepheid said last week.
Terms of the settlement call for the companies to pay license fees and enable them to “continue to make and sell their respective lines for products.”
Idaho Technology sued Cephied in 2005 for allegedly infringing three patents that cover "rapid polymerase chain reaction methods and instrumentation, use of SYBR Green I in PCR reactions, and certain methods of analysis of real-time PCR data,” Cepheid said.
Cepheid said the settlement “resolves all claims” made by Idaho Tech and its licensor, University of Utah Research Foundation, and resulted in a dismissal of the case.
Idaho Technology, based in Salt Lake City, makes instruments for pathogen detection, reagents, and thermocyclers.
In a separate announcement this week, Cepheid said that it and BioMerieux plan to develop and market a line of sepsis tests.
The companies said they will develop assays to identify fungi and bacteria and genetic markers for antibiotic resistance. Cepheid and BioMerieux also said that the panel could be used to identify hospital-acquired pneumonia.
The tests will work on Cepheid’s GeneXpert platform. Cepheid will manufacture them and BioMerieux will distribute them worldwide.
As part of the deal, BioMerieux has licensed Cepheid patents for its methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus test. Cepheid will continue to develop, manufacture, and market the products
Financial terms of the agreement were not released.
Sepsis is a bacterial infection of the bloodstream that affects a small percentage of hospital patients, generally those with depressed immune systems. The condition affects around 750,000 Americans each year and results in death in between a quarter and a half of them. US hospitals spend $17 billion a year treating the infections, the companies said.
Cepheid CEO John Bishop said a rapid sepsis test coupled with a “molecular snapshot of drug-resistant organisms” will allow doctors to make better treatment decisions more quickly.

OGT, Agilent Sign Microarray Partnership
Oxford Gene Technology said this week that it has inked a collaborative agreement with Agilent Technologies that gives it access to Agilent’s microarray platform and makes Agilent an OEM supplier of OGT-designed microarrays.
Under the deal, OGT becomes an Agilent certified service provider and the companies plan to create a “Center of Microarray Excellence” that will focus on emerging microarray applications, such as array-CGH, ChIP-on-chip, DNA methylation, and microRNA analysis.   
OGT said it will use Agilent’s 2100 Bioanalyzer platform and GeneSpring microarray analysis software in the center.
The agreement follows a number of licensing agreements that OGT has recently signed with MassTag Technologies, NimbleGen, and Illumina.

ServiceXS to Use Illumina Platform in European Melanoma Genotyping Study
ServiceXS, a genomics and proteomics services firm based in Leiden, the Netherlands, will perform a large-scale genome-wide association study for the European Union’s Melanoma Genetics Consortium, the company said last week.
ServiceXS said it will use Ilumina’s Infinium multiplex technology to genotype 300,000 tag SNPs in 1,800 subjects for the GenoMEL study.
Candidate SNPs will be validated in a case-control study including 4,000 melanoma cases and 4,000 control individuals, the company said.
Financial terms of the agreement were not released.

Bio-Rad Licenses Axis-Shield’s RA Test
Bio-Rad Laboratories last week said that it had licensed Axis-Shield’s early-detection rheumatoid arthritis test.
Bio-Rad said the Axis-Shield assay, which is based on anti-CCP antibodies, will run on its BioPlex 2200 system.
The BP2200 is an automated multiplexing system that works at a rate of 2,200 results per hour. The platform already holds several assays designed for other autoimmune diseases.
Financial terms of the agreement were not released.

AMEX Rules Require Bio-Rad to Replace Deceased Director in 90 Days
Bio-Rad Laboratories last week said it is not in compliance with American Stock Exchange listing requirements after the death of a director last week left the company without the required number of audit committee members.
Bio-Rad said it was expecting the letter, which it received on Jan. 9, after notifying AMEX on Jan. 4 of the death of the director, Philip Padou. Companies listed on the AMEX are required to have at least three members on their audit committee.
Bio-Rad has three months, or until April 9, to fill Padou’s spot on the committee. The company said it is seeking a replacement.

Sequenom to Provide Genotyping Services to UK Livestock Breeder
Sequenom this week said that it will provide large-scale, high-throughput contract genotyping services to Genus, a UK-based livestock breeding and research company.
Located in Hampshire, Genus has operations in 70 countries and also has research labs in Wisconsin, Sequenom said.
Financial terms of the agreement were not released.

The Scan

Researchers Develop Polygenic Risk Scores for Dozens of Disease-Related Exposures

With genetic data from two large population cohorts and summary statistics from prior genome-wide association studies, researchers came up with 27 exposure polygenic risk scores in the American Journal of Human Genetics.

US Survey Data Suggests Ancestry Testing Leads Way in Awareness, Use of Genetic Testing Awareness

Although roughly three-quarters of surveyed individuals in a Genetics in Medicine study reported awareness of genetic testing, use of such tests was lower and varied with income, ancestry, and disease history.

Coral Genome Leads to Alternative Amino Acid Pathway Found in Other Non-Model Animals

An alternative cysteine biosynthesis pathway unearthed in the Acropora loripes genome subsequently turned up in sequences from non-mammalian, -nematode, or -arthropod animals, researchers report in Science Advances.

Mosquitos Genetically Modified to Prevent Malaria Spread

A gene drive approach could be used to render mosquitos unable to spread malaria, researchers report in Science Advances.